Preschool Theme: Penguins

At the beginning of the year, I officially (re)started preschooling Dexter. I have created our curriculum for the year, and I’d love to share some of our activities and themes with you moms out there! I’ll be showing some pictures of things we did and sharing the resources I’ve compiled for that theme.

I was so excited about studying penguins last week, because I found some really cute ideas online. And I figured this would be a topic that Dexter could really get into. 

We started the week out by discussing penguins. I found some really informative books for kids at Mckay’s. Dexter loves books and he was able to stay engaged and learn a lot without just having me lecture him about the topic. 

I strongly suggest going by a used book store and loading up on books to supplement your preschool curriculum. I know a lot of people love to go to the library, and that’s great too. I spent about $25 on as many books as I could (most of my books were under $1), and I’m really glad I did that because I don’t feel the pressure to get to the library weekly. 

I borrowed some plastic penguins from my mom (thanks, Grandma!!!) so we could have imaginative play. Primarily, Dex enjoyed having the penguins slide down cardboard tubes. And we also let the penguins swim in some ice water. So, if you don’t have some play items that go with your theme, you could consider borrowing some like we did! Dexter was actually excited when we sent them back because he understood that they came from Grandma’s house. He even got really into writing (drawing) her a thank-you note to send with them.

We then watched March of the Penguins. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can stream this for free! Take note that there are several death-related scenes in the movie and be prepared to answer those questions! Dexter’s favorite part was when the babies came, and how they hid under their parents’ bellies. We snuggled in bed to watch it, and he kept telling me, “I want to hide in your tummy!” and would snuggle up against me and cover up with blankets.

For movement, we waddled around like penguins. We did this after watching our documentary, when Dex had a really good idea about how penguins move and sound. We also played Mama Penguin/Baby Penguin by having him climb on my feet and waddle him around the room. 

Later in the week, we looked for penguin songs on YouTube. I’m sure I’ve suggested this before, but it’s better to prep for this. I’ve made the mistake (a couple of times) of searching *with* Dex, and then stumbling across something soooo inappropriate. So take a some time during your lesson planning to find some cute songs that you may not know. 

Here are a few to get you started: 

These are just a few we found on the fly. If you don’t like the music/video etc, another suggestion is to learn the songs by yourself and teach them to you child.

 

The thing I was REALLY excited about was the fun snack for the week! 

I made him a little penguin environment. My penguins are SO SLOPPY, as my hands were shaking a little from the anxiety of having someone stand behind you and constantly say, “Is it ready yet?? Is it ready yet??” (Have I told you yet to prepare ahead of time when you can??) The good news is that kids will love them even if they are not perfect. I found this at Gourmet Mom On The Go. She used toothpicks to hold them together, but since I only made two at a time for one child, I just sort of pasted them together with cream cheese and hope. They are made from large and collosal black olives (I’d never seen a collosal olive, and they weren’t lying. Those things are HUGE!). You split them down the middle, fill them with cream cheese (I used plain), and use a slice of carrot to make the feet and beak! So cute.

Dexter helped me make the blue ocean jello. He just observed until we got to the cold water stage, so he wouldn’t get burned. 

I can’t encourage you enough to let your child help you cook as often as you can. Dexter LOVES to help, and he is excited to eat what we make together. 

I bought some pretzel goldfish and threw in some marshmallows for snow.

As I said before, he was super antsy to see what I was making him, especially since he knew it involved the jello we made. But I was so happy with his response: when I turned and showed him his surprise he said, “Oh yay!!!! It’s my birthday!!!!” Sweet, sweet, silly boy :). 

He literally grabbed his jello and had it down within about 3 seconds. It was amazing to behold. (Also note that he is wearing his penguin pj’s! He gets really excited to dress according to our theme.)

Other food ideas include eating foods that penguins eat. Their diet consists of fish, shrimp, and squid. We had some fish, which he was so excited about, since it’s penguin food and all. I don’t eat shrimp, but now he’s really excited to try it with Daddy someday. And, well… we’re just not doing squid. He can check that out on his own time.

I was really happy because we were able to take a field trip to the local aquarium to see the penguins there! Normally those penguins are shy, but this time they were very playful. Find out if your town has an aquarium or zoo where you can see animals you are studying!

I had originally planned for us to study the letter P, but he just doesn’t seem interested in the alphabet right now. I worked on phonics some by pointing out words that start with P, but that was about it. 

For art, we did a penguin coloring sheet together. I’d planned for us to paint craft sticks like penguins and play with them, but we just didn’t have the time. (The craft sticks I’d suggest using are like these snowmen.)

There was so much more I’d hoped to do, but just didn’t have the time for. Here are a few more links and suggestions I collected: 

Related Sesame Street videos: 

Colors: Black and White

Shape: Oval

Supper: Brought To You (and by you, I mean me!) By Pinterest!

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I have been so crazy into Pinterest lately! It’s so addictive, and really… quite the time waster. We’re in the midst of moving, and during my downtime, you will almost always find me drooling over something on Pinterest :).

So, in order to not JUST be a pin-hoarder, I’ve been actually getting off my butt and trying out some of those ideas!

Since I’ve just gotten back into chewing, food is often on my mind. So I’ve been going to my Food I Must Try pin board for inspiration.

Last night I made Roasted Cauliflower (I’ll direct you to the actual link. It seems kind of weird to send you through Pinterest when all the credit goes to these bloggers!!). It was very nice to try something different. We are never willing to eat plain cauliflower, but this is all dolled up. We had cheddar brats, so I wanted to make sure we also had a veggie in there. This went surprisingly well with those!

Tonight I decided to try the Guiltless Alfredo Sauce. I was certainly skeptical. I mean, what’s alfredo without a little guilt?? Probably gross, right?

But this was good! The only downer about the recipe is that it calls for grated parmesan, and I think she means shredded. I was reading the recipe off my phone, but now that I see the picture on my computer, it’s certainly shredded parm. Now, this probably changed the way my sauce behaved, because grated parm makes a gritty sauce. I bet it would have been smoother if I’d used shredded. But by the time I started to wonder, all I had was grated cheese and a half-made sauce, begging to be alfredoed. So what are you going to do??

Despite that difference, it was still pretty dang good. You can see in the picture above (And be thankful for that picture, crappy as it may be! I was pretty hungry and couldn’t be bothered to take more than a quickie phone shot!) that I threw in some grilled chicken, some leftover peas, and some of that leftover Roasted Cauliflower! I will definitely make it again! And it’s nice because the recipe makes a fairly decent sized batch, so I can use that sauce for other things through out the week.

Thanks, Simply Recipes and Our Best Bites, for your recipes, and thanks to Pinterest for helping me find them!

Sneaky Snack: Kale-Apple Smoothie

Having recently had jaw surgery, I’ve experimented heavily with pureed and mashed foods. I was so excited when a past issue of Real Simple Magazine had a list of 10 smoothie recipes! I have only tried one of them, because the store I went to only had kale in bulk. I figured I’d just try to knock that out before I ventured onto the next smoothie recipe 🙂

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But we are LOVING this recipe for Kale-Apple Smoothies! Dexter and I do, at least. My (ultra-picky) husband took one sip and made a face. So I guess it’s not for everyone. But considering my 2 year old gets super pumped about it, it’s worth trying once!

It’s such a pleasant green color, and it’s packed with things that are great for you: kale, celery, banana, and a bit of apple juice. I also added a bit of spinach today!

While I was trying to do a quick photo shoot, Dex leaned over my glass and said, “MMMmmmm, smells dewd!”

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I seriously love this kid, and I’m glad that I’m able to find ways to give him things that he both loves and are healthy for him! He calls it his “smoozie” and today he said, “Oh, a smoozie for a healthy snack!!!” I was really thrilled to hear him say that, partially because it’s super cute lol, but also because I hope I’m teaching him to make good choices for his health, and to be excited about it!

He get’s his “smoozie” in a sippy cup, and it helps if that cup has a larger opening. The smoothie is not a juice, it will have little veggie bits in it, so it can clog up a sippy nipple. Or you can just brave it like I did the first time, and give your child an open cup with a straw. If you don’t mind getting green smoothie EVERYWHERE. Seriously. Everywhere.

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Also, as a side note, our preschool lesson this week includes learning about the color green. This is a great suggestion for a green-week snack, because it is so pretty and vibrant!

Picky Kid Tip: Hidden-Veggie Bread

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My sister and I have been making veggie pancakes for our picky boys for a while now. I always make a big batch and freeze them, but it just takes so long! It occurred to me the other day to attempt spreading the batter into a cookie sheet and baking it. It worked, and it shaved off as much as 45 minutes of work!!!

I always just throw leftover soups or veggies into these mixtures, so I really have no set recipe. I’ve played with the consistency a lot, so I’m learning what works best. But I start with a base of 1 cup of dry pancake/waffle mix and add an equal amount of soup or pureed veggies. Then I add any meats, cheeses, or chopped veggies. The consistency needs to be about the same as normal pancake batter, so you can add a little more liquid or puree to get it there. I kept it just thicker than pancake batter in order to spread it into the pan. This particular batch includes leftover tomato bisque, stage 2 baby food peas, and chopped spinach.

This is my batter after it was spread into a sprayed cookie sheet. I had to take the pan to the living room to get any sort of decent lighting lol.

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Then, I baked it in the oven at 350. I do not know how long I cooked it, as I was distracted by a 20 month old who was screaming for bread. I would estimate 15 minutes, give or take. I just kept checking it until I was certain it was cooked through.

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I cut it into squares and set it out to cool before serving and freezing.

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And, as usual, Dexter was a fan 🙂

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Recipe: Lemon Raspberry Bars With Cream Cheese Filling

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This is what happens when you see someone else is having lemon raspberry cake (thanks Kaedra!!) but you don’t usually like cake AND you don’t have a recipe for anything lemon-raspberry-y.

Using a basic cookies-from-cake-mix recipe, I came up with this delicious monstrosity:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350.IMG_6033

Step 2: Soften 1/2 stick butter.

Step 3: Start telling your husband a story and accidentally melt the butter entirely.IMG_6010

Step 4: Add an egg.IMG_6013 

Step 5: Add dry lemon cake mix. Use organic, so your dessert will be inherently better.IMG_6005

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Step 6: Stir until you realize there is absolutely not enough liquid to moisten the dry cake mix.IMG_6016

Step 7: Soften another 1/2 stick of butter. Correctly this time. Feel pride.IMG_6018

Step 8: Decide there is STILL not enough liquid and add 1 Tbsp milk at a time until it seems right. This takes 2 Tbsp milk.IMG_6020

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Step 9: Fold in 6oz of beautiful raspberries.IMG_6024

Step 10: Decide to pulverize the raspberries instead of gently folding them into the batter. IMG_6028

Step 11: Find a clean  pan. If you don’t have one, wash only one pan. You wouldn’t want to do any extra work. Dollop batter onto the pan in heaping spoonfuls. If you have extra batter, just put it into any other cooking apparatus and be done with it. IMG_6032

Step 12: Bake for 9-12 min. IMG_6034

Step 13: In the meantime, prepare filling/icing. Combine 8 oz spreadable cream cheese, 1/4 c powdered sugar, and about 1/3 tub of leftover store-bought butter cream icing.*

*Not all butter cream icing has streaks of green in it, but you can achieve this at home by sticking a knife with already tinted icing into your nice clean icing. Just throw the rest of that tainted icing back into your cabinets and save it for a rainy day.IMG_6037

Step 14: Blend filling/icing ingredients until smooth.IMG_6041

Step 15: Note a burning smell. Confirm that your haphazardly dolloped batter is now spilling over the sides of the pan and landing on the heating element of the stove. Yum! You’re almost done!IMG_6044

Step 16: Realize that during baking, your batter became a cookie conglomerate.IMG_6045

Step 17: Decide to make a cookie-bar casserole. Chill filling/icing while cookie mass cools, then stack cookie-filling-cookie into a casserole dish.IMG_6049

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Now, despite how horrendous this thing looks, and all the trouble I had while constructing it, it tastes really really good. Especially that filling. It taste almost like cheesecake. I will use it in the future with other desserts. Also, if I ever make this again, I am just pouring the batter into a casserole dish, baking it as cookie bars, then icing it after it cools. But you learn as you go 🙂

Dexter’s First Cooking Experience

We tried the Polenta Pizza Stackers by Cooking With My Kid. They were really yummy comfort food (think pizza grits, but better). If you’re interested, make sure you head over there for the recipe!!

I decided to brave it and let Dex help! He stood on a chair (I made certain he was supported on all sides) and helped me spread Smart Balance onto a pan. He really liked playing in that 🙂 It was awesome seeing his little finger marks all over the pan 🙂

Then I let him help me use a butter knife to slice the polenta. He thought that was the best. He chuckled the whole time 🙂 And he also broke a lot of the slices and ate them lol. Ours were way uglier than CWMK’s 🙂 We need to work on our slicing skills.

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Thankfully our oven stays cool on the outside, because Dexter felt the need to monitor their progress.

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See? Ours were all jagged from bad cutting and a chubby little snacker.

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Dex was able to help me put a tomato sauce on two of them before he decided the most important thing he could contribute was thumb-sucking. Can you guess which two were his?

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He also “helped” with the cheese by eating a chubby handful while I sprinkled.

These things looked awesome after they cooked! And they smelled great. Dexter realized when they were baking that they were pizzas. He’s so smart 🙂

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Dexter gobbled these up!

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I give these a 4 overall. I will certainly make them again, they were easy, pretty yummy, and Dexter really enjoyed both making and eating them. Plus, I can feel good about serving them because they’re really healthy. But I think I will play around with cheese and sauce to find the perfect flavor combo!

Cooking With My Kid & Preschooler Meal Planning

I found an awesome website today (actually, I found several great sites…) and I’m so excited about it! It’s called Cooking With My Kid and the author has created tons of healthy kid-friendly recipes that she makes with her son. Now I can’t wait til Dex is able to help me out in the kitchen!

A few recipes I plan to try this week include:

Broccoli and Cheese Stromboli (This looks incredible)

Baked Spinach and Rice

Naan Pizza (Dex LOVES pizza! Any time he sees a pizza box or hears us carelessly use the word he starts shouting and crying for pizza. He says “pee”, but we know what he means lol. Plus, I really like the idea of single serving pizza for our lunch so we don’t have crazy amounts of greasy pizza taunting me for days.)

Warm Tortellini and Pesto Chicken Salad

Breadless BLT’s (Maple turkey bacon??? YUM!)

Polenta Pizza Stackers (I’m really excited to try pre-made polenta!)

And then I REALLY want to try the Peanut Butter Quesadillas. They include peanut butter, apple slices, and honey. But our pediatrician really wanted us to wait til Dex was 3 before introducing peanut butter. Maybe I can get away with it sometime by making a regular cheese quesadilla for him.

On a similar note, we’ve been nearly out of groceries for… hmm… a couple weeks? We’ve just been getting what we need as we need it and eating out way too much. It’s really difficult to take Dexter grocery shopping and Alex is too busy to do the shopping or to watch Dexter so I can go.

But after a few weeks of eating crap I’m going to bite the bullet and take Dex out tomorrow. It’s amazing what having a child does to your conscience. I can’t feel good about just feeding him whatever, so I’m going to do whatever I can to get good food for him.

Up until now, I’ve often eaten separately from Dex, giving him whatever mostly healthy thing I can scrounge up while I eat… well… whatever else I can scrounge up 🙂 But now I’m going to take on the mindset of preschool meal-planning. When I worked for daycares and preschools, the meals are set in advance and include all the healthy things kids need and the teachers eat the same thing. It will be healthy for both of us! Here is a link to some dietary guidelines for preschoolers, and a website for toddler meal plans I want to check out.

How do you ensure your child gets the nutrients they need? Do you model healthy eating, or do you find this to be very difficult? Any favorite (and super easy!) kid-friendly recipes?